Every year, Jesse Holt holds Miami-Dade County’s largest track meet, the Northwest Express Track Classic, and every year before the event he is craning his neck to look upward.
Holt is studying the clouds in addition to reading any weather reports he can get his hands on.
Then there’s one other step he takes.
“We’ve already started praying that the weather will be good,” Holt said. “We start early on that. We have to do whatever we can do.”
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History has proved Holt’s annual meet at Dade-North’s Traz Powell Stadium, with some 2,000-plus contestants from 6 years old and under to 70 and older, usually turns soggy at some point. The meet is held during the rainy season, but no matter what the weather, Holt and his contingent always make things work.
Holt is famous for saying, “If the Northwest Express track meet is going on, there’s going to be some rain.”
So, no matter what, rain or shine, on Friday the masses of kids and adults will converge on Dade-North for an event that is part track meet, part party and part celebration — and, most importantly, mainly affirmation to kids.
This year, opening events will start at 5 p.m. Friday with starting times of 8 a.m. on Saturday and 10 a.m. on Sunday. It will go on come rain or shine.
The meet, in its 39th year, is a massive undertaking, and Holt at 71 is the founder and the force who makes sure it continues.
“I’m tired and inspired,” Holt said.
In addition to organizing and running the meet, Holt also coaches his Northwest Express Track Club.
“The coaching is what is really good for me,” Holt said. “I’m working with people like me — the kids. They end up hugging me, and that’s a great reward.”
Running the meet includes the highly technical, such as making sure the complicated electronic timing and scoring systems are set up properly and working.
Then there is the less technical part of the meet. On Friday, Holt will be out at Dade-North early to greet the arrival of the portable toilets.
Holt is not alone in his quest to make this annual event a success. Most of Holt’s family and various other volunteers realize the worth of the meet and help put it on.
Although, in all honesty, there is one devious family member who has been contributing in the wrong way, trying to undermine the event’s setup.
During this time period, Holt receives numerous phone calls from coaches, participants, organizers, vendors, etc. However, it seems his 17-month-old great granddaughter would rather play with great granddad than have him talk on the phone.
“She keeps hiding the phones and we can’t find them,” Holt said. “Oh, well, she controls the house — not me.”